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Tax Appeals - Notices of Objection to Fight Tax Assessments

CRA issues assessments, including net worth assessments, third party assessments for director liability or for assets transferred to a relative when taxes were owing under section 160 of the Income Tax Act, as the first step to establishing tax liability and collecting taxes. If the tax auditor believes that a tax return was filed incorrectly or contained inaccurate information, it is likely that the taxpayer will be reassessed by the Canada Revenue Agency. The taxpayer’s first step to dispute the auditor’s findings is by requesting an internal review of their file at the Canada Revenue Agency by an Appeals Officer with a mandate to take an independent look at the file. This is accomplished by filing a Notice of Objection. There is a time limit to file a Notice of Objection; 90 days from the date of the Notice of Assessment/Reassessment, with extension requests possible, but not always granted, for an additional year from the expiration of the 90-day objection period.

Upon filing a Notice of Objection, an Appeals Officer from Canada Revenue Agency will make contact with the taxpayer (or their Canadian tax lawyer if they are represented by a professional tax advisor) and conduct an independent review of the amounts on the taxpayer’s return(s) that are in dispute. This means that the Appeals Officer should not meet or talk with the tax auditor assigned to your file unless your Canadian income tax lawyer is given a copy of the minutes of any discussion.

It is very important that the Notice of Objection be drafted with legal arguments in mind and with references made to the Income Tax Act, as it is possible that any further appeals will be developed on the basis of the arguments contained within the Notice of Objection. Remember, the Canada Revenue Agency is bound by the Income Tax Act and can only act on the authority that is given to it by the Income Tax Act. Additional submissions can be made to the Appeals Officer at this time to persuade the officer as to why the auditor was incorrect in coming to their conclusion in their tax audit.

Our experienced Canadian tax lawyers can assist at this step by drafting a Notice of Objection that emphasizes the most important points, citing the relevant income tax law and decided income tax cases as well as by explaining to you why an argument is strong or weak even if it at first seemed otherwise. Our Canadian tax litigation lawyers can also help by identifying the additional information or submissions that would most support your arguments, and making sure that something irrelevant or unhelpful is not submitted along with everything else.

The Appeals Officer can decide in one of three ways to the objections raised. The reassessment can be: (1) vacated, meaning that the Appeals Officer agrees with the taxpayer; (2) varied, meaning that the Appeals Officer accepts some of the taxpayer’s arguments and a new reassessment will be issued that reflects this; or (3) confirmed, meaning that the Appeals Officer rejects the taxpayer’s arguments.

If the taxpayer disagrees with the Appeals Officer’s interpretation of the facts, the taxpayer can appeal, as of right, to the Tax Court of Canada. This must be done within 90 days from the date of the reassessment, but can be extended through an application to the court for up to one additional year. However, an extension relating to a Notice of Appeal to the Tax Court of Canada is rarely granted. For a more detailed discussion of the stages involved in appealing to the Tax Court of Canada, refer to Part III of this series, which discusses disputing a tax assessment at the Tax Court of Canada.

Case Studies

Ivan from Toronto prepared and filed his own tax return. He made a keying error and claimed a large rental loss in error. CRA denied the loss and issued an income tax assessment for almost $100,000 in taxes owing plus late filing penalties and interest. He retained our firm within the 90 day time window and we immediately filed a Notice of Objection on his behalf. After making submissions to the Revenue Canada appeals officer the entire tax amount, plus penalties and interest, was reversed.

C is a psychologist who teaches at a university in Montreal and also has a private consulting practice. The tax department audited her tax returns and sent her assessments that denied her claims for most expenses for 4 years. One our tax law firm was retained we submitted Notices of Objection for all of the years. We worked with her and her accountant to provide audit evidence of of the expenses claimed and submitted the evidence to the tax department. We also provided a legal analysis to the CRA appeals officer of expenses that he claimed were not deductible, such as conference expenses. She did not have receipts for some of the expenses or a car log for travel expenses, so we agreed with CRA not to allow some of those costs. At the end we reduced most of the taxes owing and related penalties and interest.

Frequently Asked Questions

There is no charge for general tax information. However, specific tax advice that depends on your exact situation can only be provided in the context of a paid consultation with a tax lawyer.

We provide general answers to tax questions without charge. Specific detailed questions will require a paid consultation.

We are a boutique tax firm with a Certified Specialist in Taxation (with 30 years of experience in tax law) who is also a Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA). We have a team work on every file so that we can leverage the expertise of our senior lawyers in a cost-effective way. Whatever your tax problem, we have likely encountered it and solved it before.

A taxpayer who disagree with an assessment or re-assessment issued by the CRA can submit a Notice of Objection. Any Notice of Objection must clearly explain your objections and why you disagree with that assessment or determination, including all relevant facts and documents. You generally have only 90 days from the date of your notice of assessment, or one year after the tax filing deadline for the return in order to file a notice of objection. Retaining an experienced Canadian tax lawyer is vital to properly set out your tax case with your tax appeals officer.

Retaining an experienced Canadian tax lawyer is vital to properly set out your tax case with your tax appeals officer. You can file your notice of objection a number of ways:

  • Completing Form T400A and mailing it to the Chief of Appeals at your Appeals Intake Centre
  • Mailing a signed letter outlining the facts and reasons for your objection
  • Using the CRA’s online account portal to register a formal dispute with the Appeals Division

Objections are resolved on a case-by-case basis. There are three levels of complexity for objections – low, medium, and high. Low complexity income tax objections resolved in June 2021 were completed in an average of 88 days from the date the objection was submitted. Medium complexity income tax objections resolved in June 2021 were completed in an average of 291 days from the date the objection was submitted. High complexity income tax objections take much longer to resolve than other objections because of their technical content. On average, it may take over 690 days to resolve high complexity income tax objections.


Pro Tax Tip

Tax Audits in Ontario

There are over 350,000 tax audit and review actions conducted by the Canada Revenue Agency on a yearly basis. Around 15,000 of these tax audits deal with “cash only” businesses (i.e. the underground economy). Additionally, an estimated 35,000 are tax shelter audits.

Get your CRA tax issue solved

Address: Rotfleisch & Samulovitch P.C.
2822 Danforth Avenue Toronto, Ontario M4C 1M1